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Handing over the reins of running a business to the next generation is always a big moment. When the industry and ways of running shop operations change at the same time, the challenges, as well as the opportunities, can be overwhelming and exciting. Dustin and Brenner join Bill and Uwe to share their journey.

Episode Transcript

*This transcript was generated using Artificial Intelligence. Errors may occur. If you notice an error, please contact [email protected].

Bill Connor (00:06):
So good morning, good afternoon. I’m Bill Connor and I’m here with Brenner Newman, operator and manager of Sav-Mor Automotive plus Uwe. Dustin Brown should be joining us shortly and today we’re going to be discussing handing over the reins of a running business to the next generation. So in this fast changing industry, ways of running a shop are also changing, just like all the new changes that are coming with vehicles and the challenges transition as well as opportunities can be really overwhelming. But in the case of our panelists here, they can also be pretty doggone exciting. The digital shop part or the digital shop is part of that excitement of change and providing transparency and convenience to the motorists is what it’s all about. We’ll cover methods our panelists have used for continuous growth, what their plans are for leveraging the digital shop for the business in 2022. And even for next generations that may be coming, you’ll take away some tips to put the digital shop to work in your shop. And as always, you’ll learn from our guest panelists, operating shops just like yours. And so Uwe, if you want to get us started.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (01:16):
Yes, thank you. Thank you Brenner, for being here.
Brenner Newman (01:24):
Glad to be here. Excited.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (01:27):
What really excites me about this episode is this is not really about process and theoretical things and conceptual things. This is about people and especially if you have a handoff from one generation to the other, maybe even including having more than one generation of the same family working in the same shop. There’s a lot of dynamics going on and then bringing in the digital shop might be a good opportunity for the younger generation to take the reins or might be too much change. Right. Topic of contention. And so if you could talk a little bit about how it happened in your shop and talk a little bit about the size of the shop and so on and so forth.
Brenner Newman (02:32):
Yes sir. Yeah, absolutely. Let’s just start with as far as the shop, we’re a 12 day shop located here in Plano, Texas, Dallas area. At this current moment, we have five technicians, one off site service advisor, one service advisor, and a store manager. And as well as we just today started with picked up a new service manager, but I think it’s fair if can backtrack a little bit and talk to you a little bit about my stories. I didn’t grow up in the shop, I didn’t grow up in saving automotive. I knew I always planned on working for the family business. My grandfather started Sav-Mor in 1963 and my dad took over in the late eighties. And again, I’ve been here since. So I was kind of back up here. I was in college, I was 38 hours from graduating. I was at Eston State University pursuing a business degree.
I got a phone call from dad and again, he knew my intentions and what my plan was. Things came up, things happen. He basically said that your opportunities here if you want to come, now’s the time. And I didn’t think twice about it That weekend, packed my stuff up and left school and started working and I got a lot of negative feedback from friends, family should have finished college and stuff like that. And long story short, I don’t regret it one bit. I make the same decision I made. So again, not growing up in the business, not having any experience in the automotive business, I basically joined the team. First day, started out as a service advisor and there was necessarily no policies and procedures and there wasn’t job descriptions. I was kind of just looking at other service advisors and trying to copy them and follow them.
So I was kind of just blinded and we were all paper, everything was paper. There was no digital inspections or anything like that, and I didn’t even know about that at the time. And this was in end of 2018, August of 2018, September of 2018 at this time. And so basically it was just trying to figure out the basic roles and learned the business, the ins and outs, and try to understand what my job was and what my role was. And so basically how AutoVitals came about, it was October of 2019, about a year, a little over a year I was sitting in a BDG meeting and Mr. Bill Connor was sitting in there and I’ve heard of AutoVitals. So at this time I’ve familiarized myself with a few other shops in the area and started learning outside what was going on again in other shops and what other successful shops were doing. And again, so I heard of Bill through the grapevine and I’ve heard of AutoVitals and I knew he was a part of that. And so after that BDG meeting, I walked up to Bill, introduced myself and told him that we were interested in going or I was interested in learning more about AutoVitals and going digital.
Literally a few days later somebody reached out from AutoVitals and we started the, well, I should back up. I presented this idea of going digital to the store manager that was running the store for 20 years, but of course my dad and my dad hasn’t necessarily been involved as far as a day-to-Day operator in 15, 16, 17 years or mid 2004, 2005 time, he kind of stepped back and let the manager at the time run the business however he wanted to. So presenting this to them, it wasn’t just a takeover 1, 2, 3 type of thing and let’s get the ball rolling. I did get some pushback. And so when I got this pushback, I went to my grandfather and he hasn’t been involved in the business since the mid nineties and he had my back, he had my six and he’s like-minded like me and willing to try new things and do new things.
And so I presented this idea him and he kind of talked to dad and I got the okay. And we moved forward. We moved forward with AutoVitals At first before deploying AutoVitals, I spent a lot of time trying to learn the ins and outs of it. I spent a lot of time on the phone with Bill, just literally just trying to know the upfront procedures, how the service advisors basically, I didn’t know how the workflow worked up front as well as the technician side of things. So that took me about a couple of weeks of just a lot of time just trying to learn the ins and outs. And as soon as I got comfortable where I knew I could answer questions that we were going to have that employees were going to have had confidence, I could answer some of those questions.
We went ahead with it. And at that time I had the store manager was in his fifties. I had a service advisor that was in his mid sixties. I had several technicians that were in their fifties or sixties, so I can’t say that there, I was the youngest employee. I was 23 years old and being in the game for a year and a half and changing the whole workflow and the operation in a sense, I got a lot of pushback. But I knew that going in just because of the Digital Shop Talk Radio, all the other podcasts that you guys done with other shop owners and shop managers. But that was common. So I knew I was going to get that. So I got a lot of ammunition and I got to get credit to Digital Shop Talk Radio. So we stuck to our guns.
It took two weeks, two weeks putting tablets and hands and changing the workflow. And I got a lot of buy-in. Most of the guys were starting to see, okay, this can work. I still got pushback. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still negative negative people within the business that just didn’t want change. And that’s pretty common I think. But anyways, my lead tech, I shop foreman now, he was about it and he was willing to on it and him and I worked together and he was able to help me out as far as in the back shop, start answering technician questions and stuff like that. And so now we’re what? January, 2022? We’ve been part of AutoVitals for a few years now. It has been absolutely fantastic. It’s been a game changer in a sense, and there’s a lot of new things that we’re doing now that there’s no way that we could have done without going digital. So that’s kind of just a little background of me and the story of how we got AutoVitals at Sav-Mor.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (09:37):
You’re muted.
Brenner Newman (09:38):
Uwe Kleinschmidt (09:39):
I have to tell you. This is super impressive. So if I may, and you don’t need to divulge anything, but how did you convince your grandpa and how did he twist your dad’s arms to take all the guard down and let you do it?
Brenner Newman (09:57):
So again, so dad really hasn’t met. He comes in on a weekly basis and he hasn’t been involved again since 2004, 2005. Time in taxi. My grandfather wasn’t involved in 94, 95 was his end of his days up here. And my grandfather is my best friend when I moved back from college, that’s where I moved in with him. And him and I are very like-minded and we’ve always done things together. And again, he’s my biggest mentor, best friend at the end of the day. So I knew I didn’t take advantage of that. I just presented an opportunity that we had at hand and kind of spelled out me, this is where this industry’s going. This is what we’re doing now and this change right here could be big for us. And he believed it and really I think he believed in me and I think he had that conversation with dad and it went well when working for family.
I don’t know how Dustin’s went, but I’ve always heard horror stories. Working for family is not always easy and it definitely wasn’t. And during that time there was times where it wasn’t easy and I don’t think if my grandfather would’ve been involved, it wouldn’t have went the way that it did. And now things are great, but at that time there was times where I can’t say that it was pretty every day, it wasn’t. But we definitely moved past that, moved forward and now like I said, all the relationships are good and I can’t complain about it.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (11:36):
It’s amazing, amazing story. Thank you.
Brenner Newman (11:38):
Yes, sir.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (11:41):
Welcome, Dustin.
Dustin Brown (11:43):
Apologize for being late, gentlemen.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (11:46):
No problem. I
Dustin Brown (11:47):
Got caught up and just stuff happens. I do apologize, they for letting me back in though was like, oh, I might have missed the whole thing. Leave Brenner out there to talk by himself. But thanks for having me guys again, I apologize.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (12:05):
Don’t worry, worry at all. But maybe we can ask you the same question. Would you mind talking about how several generations in the same business, how that unfolded for you and at what point in that process was going digital or part of it expedited it didn’t work at all, or how was it for you, the dynamics?
Dustin Brown (12:40):
Yeah, absolutely. Kind of like Brenner, I’m a third generation in, I never worked well. I did work a little with my grandfather, but he owned a shop in Bosque Farm, which is a little town south of Albuquerque. My father opened, I took over my great uncle’s shop and then I started working in the shop with my dad at age 12. So first off, my father is always been a kind of a cutting edge kind of guy. He had the first eight channel lab scope from automotive test solutions in the state. He knew Bernie Thompson, he’s from Albuquerque. So those two guys knew each other quite well. We called it the hot dog stand. So in this huge piece of equipment in the late nineties and we’re learning how to use telescopes. So when it came to digital inspections and kind of moving up and keeping up with the times, I didn’t get any pushback from my father whatsoever.
At this point I’m kind of more thumbs on the pulse on what’s happening in our industry. And you and Bill, you guys know I’ve been a part of AutoVitals for many years now, and I saw this technology and I saw how it’s going to better the industry as a whole, right? Just improve our industry reputation and everything. Introduced it to my father who was a big part of the company at the time, and he just said, yeah, take it if you do it. He didn’t want to get too involved with learning all that stuff. He was already halfway leaving a little bit. But I didn’t have any issues. I didn’t have to argue with him. I didn’t have to sell it to him. He looked at it, he saw the value and he goes, this is definitely what we need to be doing.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (14:38):
So it was a walk in the park. No difficulties at all.
Dustin Brown (14:46):
Well, he wouldn’t send inspections, right? No, it wasn’t without his challenges. And we’re talking about our generations, my dad, Brenner’s dad and our grandparents. But if you think about just generations in general, right? I’ve got the older generations, I got some boomer generation guys that worked for us in the shop. Getting that generation of employee to see the value and learn the technology and buy in definitely had some of its challenges. And we would show the guys the why and what we would do specifically when we would get kicked back was I just called and sold this inspection, right? They’d look at the inspection and they’d sell it no different than if it was on a piece of paper comfort zone stuff. They’re just in their comfort zone and they’re doing it the way they always did when I started breaking down the numbers for them. And we’d pull up the control panels and we’d see how what their average time spent looking at inspections and correlating that with ARO. That’s when you really got the buy-in from those gentlemen.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (16:08):
And did you have a good paper inspection process or was it more like, let’s do an inspection after we find something and documented, or was it already kind of a unwritten rule? Every car gets inspected, even was a paper inspection.
Dustin Brown (16:29):
Yeah, that was already beat into the culture prior to AutoVitals. Okay, cool. We had a full check sheet, so we took, I don’t know if this was the right way or not. And looking back, I might’ve done it differently. So I think, so what we did is we took our paper inspection and we created our digital inspection based off of our paper inspection. The reason we did that was we had already had a rhythm on how to inspect these cars. We already had this culture, they were already following the list in a certain order and it was key to make this rollout as easy as possible to get the buy-in from all the guys. So it didn’t want to really disrupt it. And we have kind of stuck with that for all these years. Why I question if that was the right move or not is because of the research and development you guys do at AutoVitals is far more than anything I have the capability of doing so I wonder if I was a little hindrance in our really taking full advantage by not taking full advantage of the inspections that you guys created with the amount of research you did.
I mean, there’s a lot of psychological research you guys did on these inspections and how to get people to click ’em and how to get ’em to read ’em and how to get the consumer to understand these. And when you’re third generation auto shop owners, we have our blinders on sometimes as how the population looks at it. To my defense, I think a lot of that’s improved a lot since day one when I signed on with you guys to now. But yeah, I wonder if I’m missing something by not fully taking advantage of all the research and development that your team has put together and making these inspections literally sell themselves.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (18:39):
So if I may respond to it in my opinion, and probably five years I would’ve said something else, but in my opinion it’s way more important that you get buy-in by the team than to be flying to the moon in three seconds and be perfect as soon as possible because the more buy-in you get, the easier it gets down the road. So I think what you’ve done is exactly right, but the challenge might be don’t rest on your laurel, so to speak and think. It will never change as long as you have a continuous improvement process in place where the techs give you feedback, how about this? How about this? And you and your shop meeting go over what did you encounter or should be changed the inspection sheet? I think that process will take care of perfection by itself. Does that make sense?
Dustin Brown (19:45):
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Especially the involvement with the text, right?
Uwe Kleinschmidt (19:52):
It didn’t
Dustin Brown (19:53):
Tell us how to do it
Uwe Kleinschmidt (19:55):
And Bill and I, we were planning an episode, it was I think sparked in one of the last year’s end of year podcasts. We want to invite a lot of service advisors and just present an inspection sheet and then let everybody rip it apart and then learn from each other how they think, why is that important and why not? And just make that as a podcast. And if it takes off and it’s well embraced, we’re probably going to do more of those and go deeper into details because I think there is no perfect inspection sheet. That’s the beauty about the digital. You don’t need to go to a printer and say, I want to change this line. Can you print another 500 inspection sheets for me? You just do it digitally in what, half a minute and so you can constantly improve. But learning what I have learned through working with so many customers is the absolute most important thing is buy in by the team. Otherwise you get this, even if you yell at them and pull the bus card, they might improve for a week, but then it goes down to how it was before. So it’s really the most important thing is,
Bill Connor (21:32):
So the question for both of these guys is how do they know when they’ve got buy-in from the staff? Do they stop complaining or do they go ahead and take ownership? How do you know when they’re really starting to dig in and get it?
Dustin Brown (21:48):
They comment, this thing prints money, they start seeing results and they start seeing it in their workflow and in their paycheck. And then I had the guy that does the grade inspection gets all the good work, and then the guy that didn’t do the grade inspections, they’re going, what’s going on here? And you compare the two, look at what his inspection look like, look at what yours look like. And then they go, oh, and then it starts clicking. That’s what I found. What about you redder? What did you find
Brenner Newman (22:28):
Out? Same thing. Positive, being positive about it. And at first, like I said, it wasn’t rock and roll with this thing. I got some pushback on it. But like you said, when we start looking at KPIs, and this is when I started, really started to monitor them, we’re starting to understand and learn about KPIs, I should say. When you’re talking about average build hours starting to increase half an hour to an hour to 2, 3, 4 hours, little things like that. Like you said, positive, they take that, they start seeing these KPIs from before and after. That was big. That was big. And yeah, I think just getting positive feedback from customers. That’s another thing, especially for us guys up front. Again, we had some older service advisors, older store manager at the time, and they were really iffy about it. They were used to how things were being ran, but once those customers immediately started responding with, wow, this is awesome, this is fantastic, and just getting that positivity run through this building, I think that’s what changed it for us. Just kind of seeing the potential and seeing the potential it had. We were just getting our feet wet with it. We started to see these tools and actions and use ’em.
So yeah, I think kind of like that positivity is what it comes down to.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (23:53):
Brenno, did you have at any time some feedback by your dad who said we should have done that earlier or something to that effect?
Brenner Newman (24:01):
I have gotten some positive feedback yesterday. He’s a hundred percent on board with it. He loves it. He loves it.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (24:09):
And so how is it today? Is he still in some responsible function in the shop, your dad?
Brenner Newman (24:18):
No, sir. As far as just making sure that the job is getting done. He’s in here on a weekly basis, but it’s more for personal stuff. Again, I do talk to him about the store, about what’s going on, and of course I get him and my grandfather updates. I really enjoy doing that stuff, but he’s not necessarily involved in the business. It’s kind of let go of the reigns in a sense.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (24:46):
Okay, so you’re now running the whole operation and are responsible for the outcome?
Brenner Newman (24:57):
Yes, sir. Well, in a sense, all like to say, this is a team effort. Every single person in this building is a part of this. This is not a one man show two man show, three man show, everybody’s a part of this show that’s in this building. What happened was is again, we got AutoVitals of October, 2019, February of 2020. Our store manager at the time, he’s been running the business for 20, 21, 22 years or whatever it was. He walked out on us and it was from multiple reasons and it really put me in a fire. It was either make it or break it, figured it out or I didn’t know what was going to happen. Well, I knew what was going to happen, but I just knew I had to figure it out. And that’s what we did. We started rebuilding a team. We started really started utilizing the tools and understanding the tools and training and getting more familiar with what we had in front of us.
And like I said, restructuring the team. When I first started here, I guess you could say there’s two technicians when I first started working here that are still here, really only one. But anyways, it was just trying to get things in order, get things back on track and move forward. There was no policies and procedures, there was necessarily job descriptions or anything like that. So putting those things in place definitely made a difference. And that’s something that we’ve all done together. And again, you’re talking about buy-in. I think that’s a huge thing is getting feedback from everybody on a regular basis that is a part of this, but was definitely helped with the buying factor.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (26:36):
Can I ask a follow up question? How did you feel your personal growth happened during that time? Did you feel sometimes, wow, I’m in over my head, but we’re going to plow through. So if you wouldn’t mind.
Brenner Newman (26:51):
Yeah, that’s a good question. I think, like I said, having my grandfather as my best friend and having being able to go home to him and him be my mentor and just tell him what was on my mind and get his feedback, that was huge. And this isn’t necessarily a plug for AutoVitals or talking up AutoVitals because I’m sitting here on Digital Shop Talk Radio. I really give a lot of credit. You guys helped me a lot. Digital Shop, Talk Radio, Mr. Bill, he was a big factor in helping me move forward and giving me the confidence to continue to grow. I spent a lot of time on the phone with Mr. Bill and on weekends he would come up to the shop and help me out 7 : 30, 8 o’clock at night, I was on the phone with him going over stuff and I didn’t have that at that time. I got a lot of resources now, but at that time it was really, it was just starting to figure things out. And again, I really relied on AutoVitals and you guys definitely helped out in a lot of ways. And so I definitely have to give credit where credit’s due.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (28:01):
Very cool. Thank you.
Bill Connor (28:03):
So both of you actually got yourself in a position where you’re actually not physically working in the business so much as you put yourself in a position to run the business. And Brenner, I know recently you had the opportunity to do it remotely and you have a remote service person that writes estimates and repair orders for you. And Dustin, I think you actually go ahead and can monitor all of your different locations, a multi shop owner from one space. So could you talk about how the digital tools lets you go ahead and do that and see what’s going on without having to physically be there?
Dustin Brown (28:38):
There’s more than one, right? AutoVitals is one of the pieces of the puzzle, which is a very important piece. But utilizing a cloud-based point of sale system that communicates with AutoVitals is key. And there’s a lot of ’em out there. We are currently on Protractor. I know guys that like tech metric software. There’s a bunch of ’em out there that you could use. That was important. Not having to go into the store and to pull reports, not having to go into every individual store to look at data. You could just get on your laptop having an internet connection, boom, you’re there. So that was key to me to help manage it. Just looking at the technology we have today, embracing it in all different aspects. How about you, Brenner? What do you guys using? You got a cloud-based system too.
Brenner Newman (29:34):
So that 2020 is when we switched over to Protractor. It was last year in October is when what we lacked inside the shop was experience upfront. Again, I was a couple years into the game, our store manager now, he was in the parts business for 10 plus years, but he didn’t necessarily have any experience in the automotive repair industry. And so that’s what we lacked. And so this service advisor that I was reaching out to, he has up close for 30 years in the game. And so obviously he carries a lot of wisdom and one of the ways that he was doing some side businesses with marketing and stuff like that. But anyways, him and I had a sit down conversation and I proposed this offsite service advising I did to him and he was all about it. And like I said, having the cloud-based POS system and having AutoVitals and having the phones capability that we have now, it definitely, definitely changed the game.
And also one thing that I really realized this last week, I’m reading this book on this leadership book and it’s talking about leading from the back and not the front always. And when you have people in place and you have I guess different leaders within this business and you set back and you look at it from afar when you’re off site, you see things differently. And that’s one thing I really opened my eyes last week is that you’re looking at how this machine is being ran from afar. And I like that. So that’s just one thing recently this last week being out
Dustin Brown (31:17):
That 10,000 mile view, right, looking at a above. That’s
Brenner Newman (31:20):
Right. It’s awesome.
Dustin Brown (31:21):
Yeah. Yeah. That’s very interesting what you’re doing operator with having offsite advisors. It’s a lot of talk in the industry right now about remote working and being able to take that. I mean we can have probably a whole conversation about the pros and cons of doing that. And I recently was in a conversation about that. I want to ask you a question. How is it going with workflow management in the back and what tools are you using with, are you using the AutoVitals tools to really help manage that workflow? Right? When the offsite can, Hey, come take a look at this. I ran into this problem. There’s a lot of personal conversations that happen inside of a shop. And also the other thing is culture, right? How does that affect building the culture in the shop?
Brenner Newman (32:07):
Yes sir. So that’s a good question. So the offsite service advisor, he is offsite, but again, we needed that experience. So at first he was here for a period of time and now he’s here once a week. Every Wednesday we have a weekly meeting and he’s here for that weekly meeting. As far as the tools within AutoVitals, we a hundred percent we utilize them, we use them. Now do we use everything a hundred percent like we should? No. That’s something that we need to do a better job of. I need to do a better job of. But we definitely utilize those tools for communication, obviously the DVIs and stuff like that. But also at the end of the day, I mean he can pick up a phone, he can make a phone call and he can talk to any tech that he needs to talk to if it needs to be go to that link. But at the end of the day, we’re doing that for efficiency. So I mean he’s not have to talk to a technician about every single vehicle or whatever. It’s you do your diagnostic, you do your DVIs and you can do your chat back and forth and stuff like that. But if there is an in-depth conversation that needs to be had, you pick the phone up and you have it on the phone.
Bill Connor (33:17):
So you use the workflow view so he knows what repair orders are his to go ahead and take over and do. And then you’ve got different smart markers you use and then you use the internal tech communication to answer back and forth.
Brenner Newman (33:30):
Yes, sir. Absolutely. And one thing that we do every morning at seven o’clock, shop foreman, all the service advisors including the offsite service advisor myself, we sit down right here and we talk about the day, what’s expected, what’s going on, what’s coming in. He’s kind of setting the tone, setting the day is what we call it. And I think that that has really been beneficial for us all just being in the same wavelength in a sense. And again, just utilizing the tools the best that we can I guess we have right now is definitely help.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (34:10):
And is the service advisor also riding the estimates or is it the shop foreman doing that?
Brenner Newman (34:18):
He’s riding definitely writing estimates. Estimates, absolutely. Yes sir.
Bill Connor (34:22):
He’s writing the estimates remotely, so you have a certain threshold of a complexity of the repair order that you go ahead and push off on him rather than your other service advisors or how does that work?
Brenner Newman (34:34):
Yes sir. That’s exactly how it works. So if there is anything in depth, he does a lot of help with myself and our junior service advisor and my store manager because he’s still writing service at this time. So he definitely helps out. He kind of has a hand in everything as far as tickets go, but he does take control of most of the more complex stuff as well as my store manager. But as far as how do we decide what ticket Robbie’s going to work on or not, it is really up to him and the store manager have that conversation when dispatching tickets and when tickets get written up and stuff.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (35:21):
Pretty cool. Dustin, if I may go back to the multi-generation you and your brother have taken over operations, how did that work? Who is responsible for, how did you divvy it up so you’re not in each other’s ways and how did your dad or I don’t know exactly how the transition worked, if you could talk about that.
Dustin Brown (35:50):
Yeah, absolutely. So we purchased a company from my father in 2018 and it was something that had to happen and I would not have been able to do it without some coaching advice. So I want to just talk about that for a little bit. When you’re doing a business transaction with the family, very, that can be very difficult. There’s a lot of emotions there. Father, son, brothers. So we had the help of a gentleman named Jim who helped kind of facilitate that for us. And there was always that talk, right? We’re going to buy the shop, dad’s going to retire, we’re going to buy the shop, dad’s going to retire. Well, he got sick and when he fell ill, it was a serious illness and we were very fortunate that he was able to come back from it and it was a brain injury and he’s doing much better now. He’s still with us. That opened up our eyes like, okay, we got to make this thing happen. Do I have access to bank accounts, everything, make sure we have access to everything and then go through the process of getting his signatures and getting it done. So you sometimes events happen like that. Force your hand to take massive action and that’s what happened with us and it worked out beautifully. So that was in 18. I love my father to death and I would never say anything bad about my father and now here’s the but okay.
Our father was in some ways preventing our growth and I don’t think he quite understood this how he was doing it himself. And I think a lot of it wasn’t necessarily him, but maybe me and my brother as well, that father son relationship, that father son relationship that’s been going on within the industry, within the company for 20 years, getting, instead of us, Nolan and I wanting to take a risk to buy number three, getting him bought in. My father wanted to go in maybe a different direction or he would hyper focus on something that might, in our opinion, be like, okay, this is a little isn’t high priority focus. So there was a little bit of a struggle there that we almost weren’t even aware of until he was officially retired and out. And it was something that we came to light a little more as we kept moving, we’d sit down and have a conversation, we’d have a meeting with my father and we’d go in, we’re going to talk about this topic, we’re going to talk about digital inspections and getting guys to do digital inspections and before you know it, we’re talking about customers and putting on another lift.
And then we’ve been in there and I’d leave the conversation, I’m like, okay, we still didn’t solve this problem.
So him retiring kind of helped us create some more momentum and get that freedom to make decisions. I could hear them spreading their wings. Yeah, almost be able to spread our wings, right? We got out from underneath the shelter a little bit. Was it scary? Absolutely. Was it exciting and fun? Absolutely as well. Did we mess up? Absolutely. So it was tricky. The biggest advice or anybody that was in my situation is third party assistance and we had to do lots, your accountant, the attorney, and then pretty much a mediator involved to help determine what is fair for all parties involved. And then of course, as a son, I want to make sure my dad’s taken care of. He built this empire, right?
But having the CPA there, he’s okay, this is the tax liabilities for you when you purchase it this way, this is his tax liabilities. It becomes murky and he takes the liability on certain things and who takes the ride off on certain ways. So it was a necessary thing. I’m glad it happened. I’m glad it happened when it happened. My father’s with us, now he’s able to see what we’ve done and he’s able to be proud of what we’ve done. He’s excited for us and I am glad we got it done and he could see what we’re doing before the inevitable, which is what we all our time is always limited.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (41:18):
Awesome. Thank you for sharing. Thank you for sharing. And how is Nolan and you, how did you figure out who was better at what skill or whatever you used as a criteria? Did you have to work?
Dustin Brown (41:34):
That took a long time. Okay. Even before we bought the company for my father, we had the two stores and it was pretty much he ran one, I ran the other, right? Getting into store three changed the dynamic of all of that. We can’t be in three places at Watts. It’s not his and mine and it’s not me doing everything to pretty much manage and run one him other. And we have to now build corporate structure, which we didn’t really think much of. So it took a lot of trial and error and looking at who’s got strengths and weaknesses in different areas and what do you want to do, what do you enjoy doing? And that’s very important.
Again, that was also some coaching, right? You want get involved in coaching. If you’re not involved in coaching, get involved in some type of coaching, they will help. So we look at it almost every year. We look at it throughout the year and right now we’ve pretty much got, Nolan is directing operations. What he’s doing in that, his primary focus is building the job description for a district manager. What does that look like? And he’s acting in that role and he’s on that. And I stay focused more back office stuff. I’m working the financials, the p and l, the marketing of that nature. So Nolan does operations, employee development. I do back office and I also do a lot of hiring, but my involvement in hiring is the initial step. So I will weed through the apps, I’ll do the initial calls, so instead of the manager going through all these guys, here’s the three, and then I let the manager and my brother pick the best out of those three.
Therefore the guy comes in knowing who he works for, having it written down also and sharing it with the team, sharing it with the team. So I’m not getting phone calls, Hey, this customer’s upset, or Hey, what do I do with this ball? Joint press, the team knows who to contact for what issues they’re having. So if it is an operations or tooling or equipment thing, they are customer relation thing. They talk to Nolan. If it is a thing with maybe AutoVitals, Protractor, they talk to me, what do I do with this bill? What do I do? This invoice? I deal with payroll. So sharing that with the team was very important. That way Nolan and I can stay focused on each of our tasks because each section that we’re responsible for super important. I can’t take time away from what I’m doing to help do what he’s doing and vice versa, or we’re going to not move that needle. We’re not going to get that traction that we want to get into. Number four and five this year.
Bill Connor (44:32):
When it comes to recruiting staff, is there still a fear of your applicants of the digital shop of having to work with a tablet and things like that? Or is that something that seems the market seems to be taking care of itself?
Dustin Brown (44:49):
It blows me away when I interview guys have never done it. I just have this blind, I don’t know this false notion that every shop in the country is doing this now, why wouldn’t every shop in the country be doing this? So when they say they’ve never seen it, I’m like, you don’t get dealerships doing it with their own ways. It’s just there’s so many different ways to do this now versus when you guys were the leaders of it. But no, this is the way we do it. And we let them know right up front. We do digital inspections, we take pictures, you get a tablet and I sell it to ’em. They get excited about it and most of the time you’re like, wow, that’s really cool. And yeah, I take pictures of the four corners. We’re not dealing with, Hey, you’ve scratched my car anymore. We’re not dealing with all these problems that we dealt with with paper inspections and not having that trail of photographs. So they buy in pretty
Bill Connor (45:54):
Quick. So to sum that up, adoption takes place when value exceeds costs, which is a little bit of learning and a little bit of time.
Dustin Brown (46:02):
And I see the other guys do it and my other guys are advocates for it. The other techs come in and train on they do this thing’s awesome. It’s going to take you some time once you figure it out, you got it right.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (46:14):
Ken had a question. Oh wow. We are approaching the end already. Dang. Ken is asking what type of coach or coach service did you end up using? Was it the local help or a national company? You can name names. It’s completely fine. We’re not,
Dustin Brown (46:34):
Yeah, I’m going to advocate for Transformers. That is, I’ve used multiple companies. We’ve gone through, my father started in the nineties. He didn’t have options to give now, but he did management success, boom, next level, and then you kind of outgrow certain things, right? Then we did Auto Profit Masters, Keller Automotive based out of Colorado and they outgrew them and then we outgrew the next owners Elite Worldwide. And I’m like, we’ve got three stores. I don’t know who to talk to about managing this three-headed monster. I found this Transformers group and they started it with a mastermind group with other multi shop owners. And I was there just yesterday and the day before had a fantastic two days processing issues. So the Coaching and Elite, the one-on-one coaching there, he helped us buy the shop and he even said, Hey dude, I don’t want you to guys be in this. You don’t need me forever. You need to outgrow and you need to grow and you need to find something else. And that’s what we did. And then that Transformers Institute, the team that Greg has built and the company he has built there is, it is phenomenal. It is phenomenal.
And they have world-class leadership training, advisor training. I just joined put a foreman, one of my shop foremans and their foreman training. They’re transforming the industry and they’ve transformed our industry. So I can’t say enough about them.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (48:15):
If I may add, it seems to me, and correct me if I’m wrong from what I know about Transformers, that the focus is really to learn from each other. It’s not this one coach in front of the class telling you what the best practices are. It is really peers collaborating and am I on the right track there?
Dustin Brown (48:42):
Uwe Kleinschmidt (48:43):
And that seems to be a much more successful method than there’s a coach telling a teacher in front of the class.
Dustin Brown (49:02):
The learning is so just with peers, you’re with people that are trying to do the same thing you’re trying to do, see the same problems we see how did you handle it? And it could be something as common as dealing with unexcused absences, right? So we had a big conversation over the weekend about unexcused absences and navigating that and that accountability level during the great resignation that we’re dealing with. So we have issues happening in our world right now that everyone’s dealing with. I want to hold this guy accountable, make sure he shows up and he is quick calling and sick all the time, but we also have this issue with hiring lack of people in the workforce, and then you’ve got people just quitting all over the place. So we have an open conversation, everyone talks about it and yeah, I feel like we’re kind of going off topic, but
Uwe Kleinschmidt (50:03):
No, no,
Dustin Brown (50:03):
No. This is cool. I can’t speak enough great about it, especially since I was just there the last two days and I’m just like, oh, let’s get to work. I’m ready. I’m firing up. I’m excited. Let’s go.
Bill Connor (50:14):
One of the things I hear from more and more the shops that I’m working with is by using the digital shop and a workflow and going ahead and helping technicians go ahead and get that three hours plus per repair order and so on, that they actually, as the staff uses it and uses it effectively. It’s a retention tool where a technician that has been in that mode is never going to go in and consider going to another shop that’s not using the same toolbox. Does that kind of make sense?
Dustin Brown (50:46):
Yeah, it does. What do you think, Brenner, why don’t you kind of tell me what your thoughts are? Are you seeing that happening with some of your technicians right now?
Brenner Newman (50:54):
Yeah, absolutely. So that’s kind of funny. Out of all the, I guess in the last year and a half, I have several applications sitting here below me and almost all except one have worked in some type of digital shop environment, but none of them have came from an AutoVitals background. There was a few, they’re all a little bit different here and there. But yeah, I do like that point that Bill was made as far as employee retention, keeping them using or I guess once they get used to this tool, I think anybody can adapt, right? But I think Bill has a valid point.
You don’t mind backtracking a little bit to the coaching? The coaching has been the biggest thing for myself and our team. We started with Drive. My dad was with Success management at same company. I was with him for about six months. I just felt like they had a lot of good stuff, don’t get me wrong. I just felt like me and the coach Weren seeing eye to eye on a few things. So I made that switch to A-T-I-A-T-I has been fantastic for myself and I think I’m going to continue learning as much as I can with them. And then I plan on, there’s other transformers. That’s when I hear a lot of good things about. So I think taking some bits and pieces from each of these coaches, like I talked about, Dustin is a fantastic thing and that’s kind of what I’m doing myself and it’s definitely been beneficial.
Bill Connor (52:32):
So we’ve got about four minutes left, so I’d like each of them, if they would share some words of wisdom to those that are out here listening that are either thinking about getting into the digital shop market or they’re maybe in it and aren’t using it to its fullest. Some things that they can do to take away to actually drive success for themselves and their staff.
Brenner Newman (52:59):
One thing that really helped me was reaching out to other shops and outside resources and understanding how other people were utilizing these tools and taking advantage of them and taking bits and pieces from other people and implementing them into our own shop. All that has been big. And then I don’t understand everything about AutoVitals. I don’t. There’s things that I’m still practicing and training and getting better at, but I think having a good understanding of it and trying to learn how the system works and how it operates from the front to the back and just again, having an understanding of that definitely, definitely matters, especially throughout other employees throughout the shop. So that’s kind of my 2 cents.
Dustin Brown (53:50):
I would say don’t let the vastness of what AutoVitals can do be too intimidating. There’s so much that this tool offers and a lot of what a lot of us created maybe for specific shops or specific needs, that might not be your needs. It’s your shop. Write this thing one bite at a time. Don’t try to eat the whole thing at once. Just get the inspections down. Just start sending the inspections, then start using your tags, then start using the chat and just use it as a tool that works best for your culture, your shop, and your environment. Okay, so because so much that AutoVitals can do, just like I probably only use 40% of what Protractor has to offer, but I don’t need everything it offers. I don’t need the p and l side of ProTrac, I don’t need the accounting side.
I do that differently. So know that if you’re doing the inspections and you set your inspections up and you just take the meat and potatoes of this thing, get that first and then start garnishing it and keep learning about the new updates and start like, Hey, we’re going to try this waiter tag. We’re going to try this par on hold tag. We’re going to try this little piece out. And then it just slowly kind of becomes more and more. I’m going to get rid of my work in Progress whiteboard, and we’re going to use the work in progress work management in AutoVitals. We’re going to try that this month. Let’s see how we do. We got the inspections down now let’s take the next step. So that would be my advice, just so that you just to like anything new, there could be a lot of intimidation factor there. So that really seems to help a bit.
Bill Connor (55:49):
Cool. So we’re at the end here. So I’d like to sincerely thank both of you for being here and participating with us today. You’ve got a lot of great information you shared and both of you have a great family story. I can’t wait to see maybe 20 or 30 years from now when the next generation takes over if I’m still around. But if not, we will continue going forward. I’d like to encourage those that are listening to go ahead and go to and join us live by registering or grab a podcast by going to your favorite podcast platform and search for the digital shop talk radio, expose this information. That’s from our great panelists. We’re at version 152 now. So there’s a lot of great podcasts in the platform ready to go ahead and use and use it to go ahead and get somebody else in the industry that’s struggling a little bit to go ahead and help a fellow shop owner move forward. So once again, I’d like to thank you and wish everybody a great day and go out there and make some money and continue to wow your customers. Thank you. Awesome guys. Thank you guys.
Dustin Brown (56:51):
Thanks for sharing. Thanks for sharing. Find me on Facebook. I put my email address. Anybody needs anything?
Bill Connor (57:04):
That’s a great point where Brenner, he actually started reaching out to other shop owners and implementers in the Facebook forum and made some good connections.
Dustin Brown (57:15):
There you go boys. Alright gentlemen, have a great rest of your week too.
Bill Connor (57:20):
Thank you. Thank you guys. Bye.

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